Chestnut Bundt Cake — Naturally Gluten Free and Delicious

Well, this next recipe isn’t quick or simple, and the featured ingredient, chestnuts, may be seasonal, but turns out they aren’t likely local unless you live in Italy. Not much of an endorsement? Well it turned out to be delicious, gluten-free without trying to be, and to be honest, I just want to remember it so I can make it again! Chestnut recipes are actually not that plentiful on the internet. Dessert chestnut recipes at least.

I kind of stumbled upon this recipe in a round about way. I impulsively picked up a bag of fresh chestnuts at Trader Joe’s, thinking it would be a fun way to get into to the holidays. When I lived in Spain, street venders came out once the weather turned chilly to sell fresh roasted chestnuts. So, last week our house filled with the smell of chestnuts roasting… while I yelled at Baby to stay back from the oven each time I opened it, “HOT!” (She loves to say “hot” now.) From my time in Europe, I also had vague memories of a sweet paste made from chestnuts and set out to make that.

I roasted the chestnuts according to the package. They were okay. I kind of felt like I was eating acorns though. Then I found this video on how to make chestnut puree from fresh chestnuts. After roasting and peeling the chestnuts, you boil 2 cups of them in 2-3 cups of water with 1 cup of sugar and a vanilla bean (I used two vanilla beans.) They boil for 30 minutes and are then pureed with a little orange zest. Mine tasted delicious but it never got super smooth. Perhaps I should have roasted them longer or if I had a better blender, but mine still had a little bit of texture to it. Don’t get me wrong, I still ate quite a bit straight from the spoon. Sugar and vanilla definitely highlight and feature the somewhat bland taste of chestnuts.

I still wanted to do something good enough to share with friends as we were going to a holiday party. I thought the little harder bits of chestnuts would be less than ideal in a creamy dessert, like a Mont Blanc, but good in a cake. I finally found the recipe below deep in a foodie thread and it ended up being delicious… sweet, but not too sweet, and with an excellent crumb. As a bonus, the recipe calls for almond meal instead of flour which was perfect since one of my good friends is gluten intolerant. One thing: learn from my mistakes: I greased my pan but skipped flouring it. I should have “floured” it with almond meal. I also let my cake cool over night in the pan. Uggh, it meant that the cake was really hard to get out. Mine actually fell apart a little. I had to think on my feet and patched it together with a little melted unsweetened chocolate, mixed with half and half and a little sugar. That was probably another happy accident as well!

Chestnut Bundt Cake Recipe

Recipe found in a thread on chow. The original poster said that her “mum uses the French sweetened chestnut puree in tins in the baking section at Wholefoods.”

Whip/beat together
300g/10.5 oz. confectioner’s sugar
400g/14 oz. sweetened chestnut puree (store bought or recipe follows)
200g/7 oz. butter (I used 4 oz.)
7 egg yolks

Add:
300g/ 10.5oz ground almonds
1 good pinch baking powder

Add carefully without overbeating:
7 stiffly beaten egg whites.

Pour into a greased and floured baking tin or bundt mold. Bake for 60-65 minutes at 350F/180C.

Notes:

  1. The poster suggested reducing the butter by half. I was happy with the results from 4 oz. or 1 stick of butter.
  2. To easily make this cake gluten-free, substitute the flour with almond meal when preparing the pan or bundt mold.
  3. You can tell this isn’t an American recipe as the ingredients are listed by weight instead of volume. For a snazzy-looking, reliable, and reasonably priced kitchen scale, try the Escali Arti 15 Pound, 7 Kilogram Digital Scale. (Today the purple one is half off!)

Fresh Chestnut Puree (made from fresh chestnuts)

  • 1 pound of fresh chestnuts
  • 2-3 cups of water (enough to cover the chestnuts)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1-2 vanilla beans
  • zest of one orange
  • (optional) splash of cognac

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425° F. With a very sharp and pointy knife, cut a small “X” into the flattest side of each chestnut. Roast the chestnuts for 20-30 minutes, until the skins start to peel at the “X”. (Note: another option might be to boil the chestnuts.) Once they are cool enough to handle, but before cooling completely, peel off the tough outer shell and brown inner skin.

Step 2: Boil 2 cups of the roasted and peeled chestnuts with enough water to cover them, and 1 cup of sugar. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and the bean to the pot. Boil for 30 minutes until the liquid has reduced to a syrup. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Step 3: Remove the vanilla bean and puree the chestnuts and syrup with the orange zest and optional cognac in a food processor or good blender. (I skipped alcohol since I shared a little with Baby.) Add a little more water, as needed.